I had Richard Kuklinski pop into my mind a couple of weeks ago. I was looking for a good simile for a cold person. I didn’t want to really devote energy to describing the women I was trying to convey, because this was not a writing assignment that would ever see the light of day outside its direct purpose, which was to force some engagenment with my past, which I’d rather leave in the past. But I needed a quick stand-in for a well-wroght scene. I needed to do in a word what I would normally do in a paragraph. So I just went ahead with the pick-a-duck-any-duck carnival game that is my brain on similes and I wound up with a passage something along the lines of “they were as cold as Richard Kuklinski.”
Richard Kuklinski was an attention whore and a murderer. He was all too happy, once sentenced to (I believe) three life sentences in Trenton Correctional, to get set up with HBO and Park Dietz, among numerous other writers, biographers, criminologists, psychiatrists, and television producers.
And his three documentaries, which I think went live in 1998 or 1999, 2001, and 2003, are truly flashy. I remember watching this man storytell and being rapt. But the one thing that always, always struck me was that it was, in fact, largely storytelling.
He’s just so good at spinning yarns. He’s developed a really masterful way of creating himself in the moment. I’m not saying he’s entirely full of shit. I have no way of reading his mind. But I do know his history of abuse at the hands of his father and mother, according to him, and it’s pretty clear that he felt small at the hands of his parents. And some people who are made to feel small like to grow up to be big.
Larger than life.
Richard Kuklinski was a big man, physically. And he carried all that heft with a swagger one would expect of a mountainous mob hitman.
But something in his eyes, in his mannerisms. Something in his voice, to me, still sounds small and scared and threatened. Maybe it’s his word choice, or the texture of his voice. Maybe it’s his interactions with Dietz. I don’t know. It just feels so inauthentic. Well done, but for show.
And I feel like every story he tells is around 10 percent authenticity and 90 percent bullshit.
I see in him an animal puffing itself up and trying to appear intimidating because it knows in reality it is (or feels it is) anything but.
I’ve always been compelled, though, by the person who can live two lives. I know his family can’t have been entirely in the dark but I am curious what he was like with them. For real. When no one was watching. I’m curious because I want always to compare these types of people to Mike, who did much the same thing.
I’m fascinated by people. Especially people who are chillingly good at being unaffected by the trappings of good behavior.
Anyhow. I don’t know. That’s just something I’ve been thinking on the last couple of days. I rewatched all three documentaries. If nothing else my impression of him as a big bad bullshitter was even more strongly reinforced.
He’ll grow the size of the fish in his fish stories just as big as the person he’s talking to is willing to believe and he has a sense of creating the story he thinks his listener most wants to hear.
It’s just the impression I get. To be fully transparent I have no way of knowing that.
I’ve never had that trait. I’m jealous, really. In some ways.
I don’t know. Just what’s on my mind today. Here’s one of my favorite Kuklinski stories. He’s so proud of himself.
What a fucking weirdo.
Not the good kind. Not the kind of weirdos I worship.